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7 nights in Crete March 30-April 6

Hi all,

You helped us last year with our spur of the moment trip to Greece and now we are at it again. Last year we hit Athens & the Peloponnese & positively fell in love with Greece. This year we are doing Crete. We are a family of 4 with 2 teen sons, 14 & 16. We love history & being outside (I know it's not beach weather). We arrive Friday, March 30th mid-afternoon at HER airport & leave April 6th not sure of the time yet. We will rent a car while on Crete.

I recognize that Crete is rather large and I am having a bit of trouble with the itinerary. Roughly I'm thinking two nights in Heraklion to see the Palace of Knossos & museums & the area. Rethymnon, Hania & Chania & Imbros gorge but I'm not sure how to divide up the days. Any thoughts or suggestions are always greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

Jean

Posted by
917 posts

Note that Hania and Chania are one and the same, just a different transliteration from the Greek. Also sometimes written as Xania, just to confuse things more!

Rethymnon could easily be visited en route from Heraklion to Chania, it does not need an overnight stay; a stop for lunch in the old town and then a visit to the Fortress on the way out of town.

Posted by
31 posts

I know I saw that after I posted. LOL

So it doing some more research it looks like we only want to have two bases. So one for sure would be Chania & I'm thinking the other would be Heraklion. Maybe start in Chania for 4 nights & then 3 nights in Heraklion. Does that seem reasonable to hit the major sites in the Central or Western side?

Posted by
1398 posts

Heraklion is a big noisy and bustling city but the central area boasts lots of old building, the newly opened Castello at the Venetian harbour and the archeological museum.

Heraklion https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157655935354556

While you are in Heraklion you might consider a day trip to the Ancient site of Phastos. It is like Knossos only without the restoration. While in that area I would go to Gortyz. It was the Roman capital and there is a Roman city lying scattered in olive groves. It is virtually empty and makes you fell as if you have just discovered a lost city.
Also spelled Gortyn just to confuse tourists.

Crete Archeological sites https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157645085297380/

Drive to Matala, Gortys https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/albums/72157662118235468

Indeed the kids will love wandering around in the Fortezza in Rethymnon. It is a largely intact Venetian fortress.
Rethymnon https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157654700502270

Do stay in the old town in Chania. The back alleys and Venetian harbour will take you a couple of days just to figure out where you are. Even though it is off season Chania is a wotkign city and as such the old town tavernas and bars will be open for the locals.
Nearby you might consider visiting Ancient Aptera. There is 5,000 years of history spread out over a mountain top.
Western Crete http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632115757899/

Aptera images 38-62 Balos Gramovossa images 79-106
Chania http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632117917828/

Posted by
1229 posts

We are going to Crete this summer with teens and are not spending any time in Heraklion (well, one night. We will go to Knossos in the afternoon, spend the night, and depart in the morning). From what Ive read, HER is not a place to base or hang out. We are spending 3 nights in Chania, and then we make our way to the south side (the Hora Sfakion side) for a few nights then go south east and end up in HER for that last afternoon/night.

While we have slightly more time than you, if you are thinking of hiking Imbros gorge, why not go straight to Chania for a few nights, then head to the Imbros trailhead from Chania after your last night there, do the hike, and then stay somewhere on that side of the island, like Hora Sfakion or Frangokastello (for something different). You could ferry to some of the villages along that side of the island (southwest), several of which are inaccessible by car), and visit Frangokastello, and then drive east/northeast into Spili for lunch en route toward Plakias and further southeast where there is another ruins called Ag. Triada Villa that Ive heard some people say they like better than Knossos. Then head north to Herak for the last night (or 2 if you prefer). Ag. Triad Villa is ~ 90 minutes fro HER.

Great map:
http://www.explorecrete.com/crete-maps/images/Crete-eot.png

Posted by
1229 posts

Jean, I just want to add that this is our first trip to Greece and your post about falling in love has me very excited. It was sort of a gut-instinct choice. We'll do Peloponnese, Crete, and a few other things. I keep imagining that this could be a place we return to again and again (um, and maybe retire to Crete ;p )

Posted by
91 posts

A lot of people with just a week would choose 2 nights in Heraklio & 5 in Chania. Don't try to see all of Crete in a week! But in Heraklio you'll want to see Knossos & the archaeological museum (even if you're not big museum fans).

If you don't want to spend a couple of night on the South coast, then if you stay in Chania for the rest of your stay you can visit lots of superb places on daytrips. You could stop in Rethymno for a few hours on the journey to Chania.

Imbros is a very pleasant drive, up into the hills & you can easily DIY it - leave your car at the top of the gorge (just after the far end of the village), & then at the bottom of the gorge - takes around 2 1/2 hours or so to walk - at Komitades you can get a 'taxi', usually the back of a pick-up truck for an adrenaline filled drive back up, or if you have time, go down to Sfakia, where there are lovely fish tavernas next to the water. you may be able to co-incide with a bus back to your car.

If the weather is good you could do a day to Elafonisi, via Topolia gorge with its cave church, back via the coastline. Don't expect it to be sunbathing weather, but it could be perfect for walking on the beach - do wade over to the island to see the pink sand. Maybe brave members of your party could swim (cold!).

Aptera will be incredible when you come, as it is already absolutely filled with wildflowers, it's a natural, organic place, with very interesting roman water cisterns, bathhouses, post-Minoan house ruins, monastery & a newly restored amplitheatre set in an ancient olive grove.

You might ike to see the 3 monasteries of Akrotiri, to the North of Chania - the first, Agia Triada is an imposing, impressive, building, worth a look round & very photogenic, from there it's a short, fascinating drive to the 2nd monastery & then the walk down to the 3rd, Katholiko is fabulous! around 1 1/2 hours there & back.

I'd suggest you stay in the old town of Chania, near the Venetian harbour. It will be very safe for your boys to explore on their own, & the area is full of great restaurants. Plenty of hotels in quirky renovated Venetian houses, to suit all budgets.

Posted by
156 posts

Hi, Jean. We are planning a week on Crete in late Sep/early Oct. Would really appreciate a trip report after you return. I have been to Greece twice but this is our first Crete visit. I am tentatively planning to stay the entire time in Chania and doing day trips.
Thanks!

Posted by
31 posts

Wow, you have provided a ton of great information. Stan, I love all your photos it really makes everything come alive.

Based on my research & all these great suggestions, here is our tentative itinerary. Please feel free to critique it. Is this too much or manageable? Thanks again.

Day 1 March 31st arrive Heraklion check in, relax, walk around town go to the Castello
Day 2 April 1st Road trip to Gortyn then onto Matala for lunch. Then head back hitting Phaistos & back to Heraklion sleep & dinner.
Day 3 April 2nd Check out Heraklion. Road trip Rethymno for several hours see the highlights & lunch. Drive onto Chania. Check in & enjoy the evening.
Day 4 April 3rd Road trip to the monasteries of Akrotiri. Then back to Chania for leisurely afternoon & evening.
Day 5 April 4th Roadtrip to Aptera. Then back to Chania for leisurely afternoon & evening.
Day 6 April 5th Roadtrip to Imbros Gorge, drive along the southern coast a bit & then back to Chania for the evening.
Day 7 April 6th check out Chania driver back to Heraklion. visit Knossos & museum. Sleep Heraklion
Day 8 April 7th Fly home

Posted by
31 posts

Actually the more I look at Heraklion the less I like it. Is there a nearby town that is preferable to stay in?

Posted by
91 posts

I think it's better to stay in Heraklion rather than outside, so you are near Knossos, near the museum, near the bustling centre, OK, so it's not overall a beautiful city, but there are some interesting parts, the ancient city walls, the vibrant part around the venetian fountain etc. I think you'd find a local village just too quiet in April. By the way, your last day is a Bank Holiday so not much will be open.

Aptera is only open to 14:00 & as you are travelling before Eater sites will be on shorter winter hours.

It looks to me like a bit too much driving, if I was you I'd want 1 clear day in Chania, just to stroll round the shops etc while they are open - i.e. until 14:00. Again, as it's not holiday season, few shops are open in the evenings.

If you hadn't said you only want 2 overnight places, I would recommend that after your Gortys & Phaistos visits, you head towards perhaps Agia Galini for a night, then you could see part of the south coast & the rural inland, before heading to Sfakia, then to Chania the following night.

Posted by
91 posts

No - I've just seen your dates & April 6th is Good Friday - Knossos only open til 12:00. Luckily the museum seems to be open from 12:00 - 17:00. You may want to check these. All will be closed on Easter Sunday, of course.

Posted by
396 posts

You might consider visiting Moni Arkadi and/or the Eleftherna Archeological Museum (small museum), only slightly out of your way when traveling from Heraklio to Rethymon. The former, which is a monastery, seems to be an iconic part of Cretan history. The latter is a relatively new museum that draws parallels between Crete and the Myceneans/Homer, accompanying an archeological site that is still under excavation but apparently not accessible yet. We're spending a night in Argyroupouli, a bit south of Rethymnon, which is verdant and green in summer and apparently there are pleasant walks in the area. Not sure what that would be like in late April(?) Caveat: I haven't been to Crete yet, all of this is based on trip planning for our June trip.

The Lonely Planet Crete guidebook has many suggested itineraries that helped me clear my head of all the detail found in some of the more comprehensive guidebooks on Crete. It seems odd at first glance that a pared down guidebook was actually more helpful in initial planning, but that's kind of the approach that the RS guidebooks take as well.

Posted by
1398 posts

Hi Jean here are my thoughts. You are doing Akroteri on one day and Aptera another. Both are close together and can probably be done the same day. That will give you a full day to jsut explore Chania. I am sure jwugg can let us know if it is piratical to do those two in one day.
The other thing that I think will be a real nasty day is Chania to Imbros to Chania. That is a lot of ground to cover. I think I would just go back to Rethymnon that evening, and enjoy its old town and harbour area.

Posted by
91 posts

OK, so as Stanbr suggests, you could visit the Akrotiri monasteries & Aptera in one day, although both Aptera site & Agia Triada monastery are only open until around 2pm, I believe. For me, the trip to Aptera would need to include a quick stop at the fort (can't go in, but stunning views), then a good look round the main site with the bathhouses, marvelling at Roman engineering of the enormous cisterns, then a stroll to the roman villa which is hidden in the olive groves, & a good look round the amplitheatre. By then it's probably lunchtime, & Megala Horafia village has the excellent Ta Aptera taverna.

I suppose after all that, if you had more energy, you could drive (follow directions to the airport, ie up the hill past Souda port) to Gouvernetou monastery & walk down to Katholiko, that needs a couple of hours. But a bit much for a day.

The Imbros day I have done many times, from near Chania, & is no bother. It's a pretty easy drive of just over an hour to Imbros, say half hour for coffee & Sfakia pie, 2 1/2 hours walk down, then either taxi down to Sfakia for a couple of hours or back to your car to drive back to Chania. Nice scenic route.

Posted by
31 posts

Thank you all for your wonderful insights & details. I have tidied up our itinerary & I am very content with it. We have swapped some things around. We are starting with 2 nights in Herkalion & then spending 6 nights in Chania & flying out of Chania. From Chania we will do most of the day trips listed & of course we will play it by ear & see what level of energy we have for each jaunt.

Thanks again.

Jean